The Problematics of the “Bottom of the Pyramid” Approach to International Development: The Case of Micro-Entrepreneurs’ Use of Mobile Phones in Morocco

Hsain Ilahiane, John W. Sherry


Over the past decade a significant philosophical shift has taken place in the development world, emphasizing privatization, market participation, microfinance, and other approaches to poverty alleviation over top-down, statist interventions. At the same time, some of the claims and results associated with such programs have met with pointed critiques. This paper examines some of these debates in the context of mobile phone adoption among low-income skilled and semi-skilled laborers in Morocco. There is no question that access to productive resources, greater access to markets, and associated measures can benefit people with low incomes, as this paper discusses. As we also discuss, however, there are a number of factors that limit the success of such interventions, perhaps none more so than the level to which economic actors have the ability to determine the use and disposition of productive resources, and to form their own productive relationships via such resources. In this sense, perhaps not surprisingly, economic assistance can never be dissociated from political empowerment.


mobile phones, micro-entrepreneurs, bricolage, income-generation, social networks, Morocco

Full Text: